What is dry cleaning? An historical perspective
(The following is an excerpt from the EPA: Case Study: Wet Cleaning for Garment Care)
Professional cleaners, during the 1930s and 1940s, cleaned about one-fourth of all customers’ garments in water. At that time, cleaning in water was a very different process than is modern wetcleaning. It was a labor intensive, hand-washing process used primarily for natural fiber garments and for certain types of soils. Traditional drycleaning solvents were used to clean the remaining three-fourths of customers’ garments. Nonflammable drycleaning solvents were developed and introduced during the 1950s. These solvents allowed cleaners to dryclean virtually any type of fabric, including natural fibers. As a result, cleaning in water was no longer viewed as necessary.
Driven by the health and environmental concerns associated with traditional drycleaning solvents, recent advances in wetcleaning technology, garment care, and textile manufacturing have resulted in the emergence of commercial wetcleaning as a viable and environmentally-preferable clothes cleaning technology. Trained professional cleaners are now able to wetclean many garments that typically have been drycleaned, such as silks, woolens, linens, suede, and leather.
Most government organizations and environmental groups recognize the wetcleaning process (i.e., water-based cleaning systems) as one example of an environmentally-preferable technology that can effectively clean garments.
Currently, most of the nation’s commercial drycleaners use perchloroethylene (PCE or perc) as a solvent to clean garments. But that is slowly changing. Toronto Public Health, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have labelled Perc as a “probable carcinogen”, and are pushing to have the chemical eliminated from dry-cleaning operations.
What is wet cleaning?
Wet Cleaning is the non toxic, solvent free cleaning of garments. First, garments are gently and thoroughly wet cleaned using water as a solvent, and biodegradable detergents as soap and conditioners. Computerized washers continuously monitor water, temperature, detergent and agitation levels to ensure a complete clean without the use of harmful chemicals.
Next, if needed, garments are dried to exacting humidity levels to ensure they are never over-dried, and remain in shape.
Lastly, wet cleaning professionals, with the aid of state of the art tensioning equipment that use steam and hot air to finish items, gently press the items into proper shape.
Is wet cleaning more expensive than dry cleaning?
Not to you, your clothes, the environment, or the employees who work with your garments. In fact, Wet Cleaning is less costly overall to all three !
What are the benefits of wet cleaning?
Wet Cleaning is softer on your clothes, and does not have any of the potential harmful after-effects dry cleaning may have… Have you ever smelled that dry cleaning smell on your clothes? You shouldn’t… that’s Perc residue!
The EPA commissioned a case study of Wet Cleaning versus Dry Cleaning and found “wetcleaning usually performs as well as drycleaning or better for some garments”.
Wet cleaning is gentle on your clothes, and gentle on the environment, while dry cleaning may be harmful. A vast majority of dry cleaners use perchoroethylene, or Perc, which, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a probable carcinogen, and can damage the central nervous system and cause kidney and liver damage. And while Perc is great at removing grease, as it is an oil derivative itself, it is not great at removing water stains, such as sweat, which causes many dry cleaners to wet wash many garments regardless.
Truth be told, this has always been an easy decision for us. Dry Cleaning products hurt the environment, our familiies and our employees. Wet Cleaning seems like an obvious solution to this problem. We’re hoping more dry cleaners begin to take the steps towards minimizing Perc usage in their facilities. It’s simply not needed for most cleaning jobs.